The bureaucracy and rules behind the Massachusetts FAST LANE could well be termed the HACK LANE. That’s because it punishes good customers (me!) and then makes them jump through hoops to get the fines reversed.
Granted, the FAST LANE is a huge convenience. I whiz through the Hampton, N.H. tolls at 60 miles per hour (yes, the Live Free of Die state charges two dollars for use of about a dozen miles of I-95). It beats the numb glare of the toll taker, but this is also an altogether too easy way for taxing authorities to take money our of your pocket.
Here’s my beef: I neglected to update the expiration date of my credit card so I went over my balance. FAST LANE outrageously charges a fine of $50 every time you go through a toll and have no credit balance.
That’s because rather than giving you the option to charge your credit card for every toll, FAST LANE takes $45 and then draws down the tolls. So my wife goes through the Hampton tolls today and the orange light goes and says “call service center.”
We had no balance left and FAST LANE could not charge my card $45 to refresh my credit balance. By the way, take those orange lights seriously and don’t wait to call the service or check your account online.
I thought I had updated the credit card expiration date earlier this week before we went over our credit balance. It didn’t take, apparently, because I did not re-enter the card number, too.
I did it correctly this morning about 10 minutes after my wife went through the toll that zapped our credit balance. The service center rep said we will probably get fined, but it did not show up on her computer because there’s a two day lag time for the recording of violations.
She added that I will probably get a letter about the fine and an appeal form to possibly overturn it. The process, she said, takes 30 to 60 or 90 days to process. When pressed, she said I would probably be forgiven, but will be charged $5 for processing.
I’m thinking this is a lousy way to treat a good and regular customer. If Amazon or even Verizon treated customers this way, they would not survive. It’s the heavy-handedness and arrogant behavior of bureaucrats who seem to report to no one. Maybe, I should give back back my transponders and get back in the lines.
While I was online, I checked my annual FAST LANE balance – it’s quadrupled in the past four years mostly from toll increase. The former Mass. Turnpike Authority, which was folded in the Mass. DOT last year, was a cesspool of patronage and mismanagement. It was always broke, too.
Follow me on Twitter and not in the FAST LANE.